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Data Center Energy Growth Slows, Defying Predictions

Electricity use by data centers in 2010 was significantly below predictions, according to new research by a Stanford University professor.

In research carried out for the New York Times, consulting professor and sustainability consultant Jonathan Koomey found that the growth in data centers’ electricity consumption slowed considerably from 2005 to 2010. In that period, electricity used by data centers in the U.S. increased by about 36 percent, instead of doubling as it had from 2000 to 2005. In a 2007 report to Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency had predicted that U.S. data center energy use would double again from 2005 to 2010.

Electricity use by data centers worldwide, which had doubled from 2000 to 2005, rose by 56 percent from 2005 to 2010.

Koomey found that the slower growth was due to fewer servers being installed than the EPA had predicted, in part because of the global recession, and also because of energy-efficient technologies such as server virtualization.

He reports that electricity used in global data centers in 2010 likely accounted for between 1.1 and 1.5 percent of total electricity use. For the US that number was between 1.7 and 2.2 percent, Koomey says.

Koomey notes that Google accounts for less than one percent of data center electricity use worldwide. That calculation comes from company figures for data center electricity consumption, which Koomey says are the first that Google has ever revealed.

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